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  • Phoebe Aubury

What Is Permaculture?!

And how can permaculture design save you time and money?


The word permaculture is derived from the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’ which gives us perma-culture. It incorporates traditional ways of living which are considered ‘permanently’ sustainable and have been passed from generation to generation, permaculture aims to ensure long lasting success in agriculture and other societal activities.

The permaculture association define 3 key aspects to permaculture:

1. An ethical framework: earth care, people care, fair shares

2. Understandings of how nature works

3. A design approach

https://www.permaculture.org.uk/knowledge-base/basics


There are many different practices,toolkits and methods that have evolved from these key aspects.

Permaculture has actually become a really broad and diverse set of regenerative systems that go way beyond the garden setting, it can be applied at all scales - from home to community, and industry. Permaculture also has a crossover with many other horticultural and agricultural practices such as Agroforestry. Permacultures many branches include ecological design, eco engineering, biophilic design, community design and sustainable architecture. The one thing all permaculture branches have in common is that they are modelled from natural ecosystems.


Permaculture is actually not new at all, it has been around decades as a 'defined concept' and very much like organic gardening it’s pretty much just the way our ancestors used to do things! So you could say it’s really been around centuries and it’s more of a return to how things were done than a new invention.

Why use permaculture??? its effective! Ever noticed how nature works perfectly well without intervention? Without pesticides or herbicides forests grow perfectly well. And the bugs and the pests all balance themselves out relatively well in a healthy ecosystem. Well that’s essentially what you are trying to achieve in your garden. Creating an environment that’s so healthy that nature takes care of everything (most things) for you! It’s very low maintenance and cost-effective process.


Layers

The woodland analogy illustrates the different layers that can be used to achieve permaculture success. From the tallest trees to the tiny undergrowth it is thought that there are 7 identifiable layers which are desirable to replicate in a permaculture garden. Each layer feeds and supports the surrounding layers, such as leaves falling on the ground that provide mulch and nourishment for smaller plants below.


Zones

Zonal layout is a way of achieving maximum productivity with the smallest amount of effort, designing spaces with a layout that is the most ergonomic and accessible, for instance placing the herb garden right next to the kitchen as it is used every day, and placing the orchard in a further zone form the house as it is only utilised at harvest time. The theory is that it’s easier to achieve the most labour intensive tasks if they are closer to the centre of the grounds.



Other common permaculture methods include:

Buried Logs - the idea is too dig a trench and fill it with things such as buried logs, twigs and organic matter, buried right under the desired growing area. This replicates the way a fallen tree in a woodland would decay and release nutrients and nourishment into the surrounding environment. This benefits, feeds and retains water for young saplings and plants. good way of using up excess tree prunings and branches too big for the compost.


Swales - The idea is to dig/rip a level trench and resulting mound across a hillside. Fruit trees etc are planted in the mound. When the water comes down the hill and collects in the swale, it slowly infiltrates the ground and waters the trees – concentrating both the water and nutrients at that site.


Cyclical Use of all garden resources – For example composting, capturing greywater, reusing and repurposing everything and using it as a valued resource.

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Herb spiral – we’ll let you google that, it’s not something we’ve tried but may well fall into the permaculture cliché category!


Companion Planting – Planting things that grow well together or have a symbiotic relationship, for example planting Thyme next to a cabbage crop can deter cabbage worm.


Mechanical Controls - Basically weed control through physical methods that remove weeds by making the conditions unfavourable. Some of these methods involve altering the growing environment by eliminating light or increasing the temperature of the soil.


Natural Pest Competition – This means inviting desirable pests onto your plot to deter undesirable pests. For example, ladybirds eat and control aphid and greenfly populations.


Wood chip Layers – common practice for a lot of gardeners is to lay bark chips as mulch above the top layer of soil or compost. This help to condition the soil, suppress weeds, and retain water. It does also release nutrients over time.


Hügelculture mounds - mound constructed from decaying wood debris and other compostable biomass plant materials is later (or immediately) planted as a raised bed. Adopted by permaculture advocates, it is suggested the technique helps to improve soil fertility, water retention, and soil warming, thus benefiting plants grown on or near such mounds.


How do we apply permaculture to our designs?

We apply permaculture principles and methods in every garden that we design, helping the client to achive ecological balance in their garden. We see it as a way of working with nature and not against it. Observing all of the positive systems that we see in the natural world and applying those systems to human activity, they make life easier, reduce the amount of maintenance required and save money and effort. More time to enjoy the garden!


Permaculture provides an overarching framework to create a healthy and sustainable ecosystem but each setting has different requirements so we apply different parts of permaculture thoery in each garden and chop and change which methods we use depending on the circumstance.


If you would like to know more about permaculture then we would be happy to discuss and guide you on how to implement methods that would be suitable for your garden/land.


If you really want to get geeky on the subject check out these notable practitioners of permaculture for further reading!


David Holmgren

Bill Mollison

Joseph Russell Smith

Toyohiko Kagawa

Geoff Lawton

Ruth Stout and Esther Deans

Stewart Brand

Masanobu Fukuoka

Toby Hemenway



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Natural Design Studio, Cullompton, Devon

Tel: 07791557139

Email : info@naturaldesignstudio.com

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